7 Stocks to Give Your Grandchildren

Give your grandchild a gift that bears dividends and teaches about money.

a young boy looking at a stock ticker
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you have never given a child shares in a publicly traded company as a holiday present, that's probably just as well. Presents are supposed to be fun. Investing in equities — as remunerative over the long haul as they have proven to be — isn't fun a lot of the time.

That said, the impulse to give stocks as a gift to a youngster is understandable, even noble. We want children to develop critical life skills around money as early as possible. The more they learn about saving and investing—to say nothing of compound interest, dividends, the economic cycle—the better. We know how important this stuff is going to be for them in ways they can't yet imagine. 

Stocks even have a singular appealing quality as a gift. They're dynamic. A child can follow a company and its stock. Hopefully, the stock will appreciate in value. Perhaps you and your grandchild will bond as you follow corporate developments and stock charts together.  A gift that allows the two of you to spend time together, while learning something and maybe even making a little money, too? Sounds lovely.

Subscribe to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance

Be a smarter, better informed investor.

Save up to 74%

Sign up for Kiplinger’s Free E-Newsletters

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice on investing, taxes, retirement, personal finance and more - straight to your e-mail.

Profit and prosper with the best of expert advice - straight to your e-mail.

Sign up

Consider indexing vs buying stocks

The vast majority of full-time professional investors can't do it, so why should you? The simple fact is that most investors can't beat the market because most stocks can't beat the market. 

Between 1990 and 2020, more than 55% of all U.S. stocks underperformed risk-free one-month U.S. Treasury bills, according to Hendrik Bessembinder, a finance professor at Arizona State University.  These stocks didn't just fail to beat the market, they failed to beat cash. Even more damning, the professor found that the entirety of the $76 trillion in net global stock market wealth created between 1990 and 2020 was generated solely by the top-performing 2.4% of stocks. 

Finding winning stocks is like finding needles in haystacks. That's why Vanguard founder and indexing evangelist Jack Bogle always advised clients to "buy the haystack." 

So if part of the purpose of giving stocks as a gift is to teach your grandkids about investing, you should probably start by discussing the advantages of indexing and the miracle of compounding. 

If you can achieve an annualized return — also known as a compound annual growth rate — of 7.18%, your initial investment will double every 10 years. Happily for all of us, the S&P 500 has generated an annualized return of at least 7.1% over the past 30, 20, 15 and 10 years — and that's after inflation. The market has basically been doubling our money or better in real terms for decades.

You could explain these facts to your grandchildren as you give them some S&P 500 ETFs, such as the SPDR S&P 500 (SPY, about $430 per share) or the Vanguard S&P 500 (VOO, $396).  An ETF is probably an even more disappointing present for a kid than stock (or underwear), so it's bound to make an impression. The important part is that the child learns that indexing is generally the best way to go for most retail investors. 

The best stocks to buy your grandchildren

If the point of this holiday gift isn't to teach your grandchild about the wonders of indexing, then here are some general guidelines for picking equities. 

If you give shares in some company to your grandkids as a gift, they probably don't care about dividend yields or price/earnings multiples or trailing-12-months levered free cash flow. If you must buy individual stocks as a gift, be sure to invest in high-quality companies your grandchild recognizes and maybe cares about.

High-quality blue chip stocks with fortress-like balance sheets and a decent chance of beating the market over the next, say, five to 10 years, are easy enough to screen for. Have a look at what industry analysts believe are buy-rated blue chips with interesting businesses. 

Apple (AAPL, $175), Microsoft (MSFT, $316) and Walt Disney (DIS, $81) are all buy-rated components of the Dow Jones Industrial Average with excellent long-term track records—and they can all be fun to follow. Nike (NKE, $90) is another buy-rated Dow stock that likely holds relevance for your grandkid. Wall Street also happens to be bullish on Dow stock McDonald's (MCD, $270) these days. Perhaps your grandchild would like a side of fries with her shares in the Golden Arches?

If you really want to teach your grandkids about investing, start with indexing. If you want to have fun playing around with individual stocks, go ahead. Just know that you're going to have lots of ups and downs. 

Of  course, it’s true that unless you plonk down a serious chunk of starting capital, a small gift of stocks is unlikely to make anyone a member of the 1% one day. If 20 years ago you had invested $1,000 in AAPL, pretty much the best stock of the past couple of decades, it would today be worth about $500,000. (To be fair, adjusted for inflation, $1,000 in 1993 equals $2,153 today.) That's a fabulous return, but it's hardly Mega Millions money. 

The same amount invested in the S&P 500 would be worth about $6,300 today. If you can find the next Apple, go for it. 

Most importantly, make sure the stocks you pick are relevant to the person receiving the gift. If you want this present to hold the recipient's attention longer than most, that's the only hope you've got.

Note: This item first appeared in Kiplinger Retirement Report, our popular monthly periodical that covers key concerns of affluent older Americans who are retired or preparing for retirement. Subscribe for retirement advice that’s right on the money.

Related Content

Dan Burrows
Senior Investing Writer, Kiplinger.com

Dan Burrows is Kiplinger's senior investing writer, having joined the august publication full time in 2016.

A long-time financial journalist, Dan is a veteran of SmartMoney, MarketWatch, CBS MoneyWatch, InvestorPlace and DailyFinance. He has written for The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Consumer Reports, Senior Executive and Boston magazine, and his stories have appeared in the New York Daily News, the San Jose Mercury News and Investor's Business Daily, among other publications. As a senior writer at AOL's DailyFinance, Dan reported market news from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and hosted a weekly video segment on equities.

Once upon a time – before his days as a financial reporter and assistant financial editor at legendary fashion trade paper Women's Wear Daily – Dan worked for Spy magazine, scribbled away at Time Inc. and contributed to Maxim magazine back when lad mags were a thing. He's also written for Esquire magazine's Dubious Achievements Awards.

In his current role at Kiplinger, Dan writes about equities, fixed income, currencies, commodities, funds, macroeconomics, demographics, real estate, cost of living indexes and more.

Dan holds a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College and a master's degree from Columbia University.

Disclosure: Dan does not trade stocks or other securities. Rather, he dollar-cost averages into cheap funds and index funds and holds them forever in tax-advantaged accounts.